Not for dying. Oh no, I don't ever want to be thankful for someone's death.
But on this day of the infamous reverend from Topeka's death, I do want to say thanks.
Thanks for exemplifying for so many just how ugly and consuming hatred is. Thanks for showing people who were either indifferent or uninterested in gay issues in general that things like marriage equality, protection of our families, and our spiritual lives had value.
Thank you for nudging people from that state of apathy into one of support, one in which people could vote in support of marriage equality and housing rights and job security because you revealed so eloquently just how vile and mean-spirited it was to oppose them.
Thanks you also for showing people what your beliefs really looked like when they were no longer confined to the space between one's ears, or even the space between the walls of their church or congregation. Because certainly many had heard those words from their spiritual leaders, but never so publicly, never with such prosaic venom.
You brought true awareness to many that needed it. You nudged them out of a dangerous delusion. And you exemplified that hell is not a place, but rather a state of mind, one that consumed yours until the end.
Yes, you made life miserable for many people. You and yours brought great harm to others, embittered many, and for that you will experience (or have experienced) the consequences.
But make no mistake, by being that person that you were, you helped many. I suspect you even brought a few alienated families together, reintroduced conversation to families that didn't talk.
Some people will only always see you as evil, that nothing good ever came from you. But I see it differently. Granted, I would have preferred your help on different terms. But help is accepted regardless.
And I know that some may attack what I say here. Perhaps it's because they still feel that bitterness you brought to them. But just like you discovered, and I think you did, you cannot fling the fire of hate without first getting burned yourself.